Updated: Mar 8
A young Englishman’s journey to find a purpose in life led him to Malawi where he founded a premium sugarcane gin which unified ingredients from 12 countries from one continent - Africa.
A new sophisticated premium gin infused with the finest flavours from across the continent was recently launched and destined for the top tables and finest company at the glittering gatherings of Africa and the UK.
Umodzi Gin is made in Africa for the world. It teems with a taste of a dozen countries – a remarkable gathering of flavours from the far-flung corners of Africa: from mangoes grown on the shores of Lake Malawi to ginger from Lake Tana in Ethiopia. Its branding was designed in Ghana and it is distilled and bottled in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The drink, which is initially available Direct to Consumer on Umodzigin.com, Amazon, Master of Malt in the UK and on Takealot.com in South Africa, is based on sugarcane which is as popular in Malawi as the language from whence it draws its name – Umodzi. In Chichewa – the most spoken language in Malawi- the name means unity, oneness, or togetherness.
“I think it is a challenging concept to pull off, but it is of great importance to showcase that through unity, perfection can be attained in a product that is proudly produced on the continent,” says David Mountain the English entrepreneur and chef behind the brand who spent a number of years working in Malawi.
The global gin market is expected to grow by over 4.33 percent between 2019 and 2024. The market was valued at just over 9 billion U.S. dollars in 2019 and is forecasted to reach 11.2 billion dollars by 2024.
The last David to face such odds carried a sling and a bag of stones into battle against a giant named Goliath. It is as daunting to take on the equally mighty and fiercely competitive liquor market in Africa and Europe in difficult economic times. To succeed he needs – without stretching the metaphor too much – to climb as high as his surname.
Determined to make a tasty and sophisticated brand that represents Africa, Mountain journeyed to a dozen African nations to find the twelve ingredients that give the sugarcane gin its unique taste. In all, he travelled to: South Africa; Eswatini; Malawi; DRC Congo; Cameroon; Nigeria; Ghana; Senegal; Mali; Morocco; Egypt and Ethiopia.
“I want our consumers to remember that this is the Premium Sugarcane Gin of Africa, feel like they are part of royalty, that they are in a luxurious moment, the envy of all those in the environment they are in and know they have contributed towards bringing unity to the continent of Africa,” says Mountain.
The heart of Umodzi Gin is quality sugarcane; grown in the copper-colored earth, deep in the lush Eswatini bush. This cane is shredded and pressed until its liquid flows into the heart of the copper still – here, it ages for 10 days until the flavour is rich and full bodied, ready for the first distillation. On opening the bottle, the first essence that reaches your nose is sweet mango and citrus fruits. These mangoes are picked by hand along the blue shores of Lake Malawi.
Along with the citrus fruits comes the tangy taste of hibiscus harvested from the city centre roof garden on top of the distillery in the heart of Johannesburg. This is balanced with sweet Chamomile hand-picked from the Mangaung forest fringes.
Other flavors complement the citrus and spices. The first of these is Corrorima, part of the ginger family, grown for centuries near Lake Tana in Ethiopia – known for adding depth of flavor to traditional Ethiopian coffee. The second and third variants of Atiko Cardamom are grown wild and hand-picked deep in the Cameroon and Ghanaian tropics.
The taste journey winds from the western coast through Senegal, Nigeria, Mali and down through the Democratic Republic of Congo. The sharp warm aroma of Black Pepper and intriguing spice of Ehuru are harvested in Nigeria. Combined with the finest African Pepper Pods, Grains of Selim and more. All part of a gin that packs a punch – made in Africa for the world.
The Umodzi Gin logo was inspired by numerous ancient African alphabets across a number of cultures. The base font for the contraction of the logo was Azonix; modern, minimal and has the premium appeal of modern Africanism. It too was home grown.
“Sourcing the ideal graphic designer for the brand was the hardest part of creating Umodzi Gin,” recalls Mountain.
It took four months of trawling through options until he found the perfect agency for the job in Accra,Ghana.
The striking design of the Umodzi Gin bottle was also born in Africa. Again, the founder scoured the continent for a skilled glass bottle maker to conceive the unique black-and-copper foil design. He found what he was looking for in South Africa.
The bottle is made from recycled glass and can be used many more times over – yet the entrepreneur behind Umodzi Gin believes the impressive design of the bottle may mean people could postpone the recycling.
“The design of our bottle is so striking that we believe many can find another use for the empty bottle as a decoration around the house after they have enjoyed our product,” says Mountain.
Mountain expects to expand the range with up to two more flavoured Gins at a minimum. The distillery also has the capability to develop rum which Dave has an appetite to consider exploring in the future.
“There will be one core product – Umodzi Sugarcane Gin, 500ml, 43% ABV. We will also provide consumers the option to purchase this cased or as a gift box complete with a hand-crafted wooden tumbler and bespoke bracelet referencing unity – the perfect luxurious gift for your boujee friends,” he says.
It may be David v Goliath on the way to the top of the mountain but Umdozi Gin is definitely a recipe for African unity